Sad Jokes
Sad Jokes

Sad Jokes

a film by Fabian Stumm

Germany 2024, 95 minutes, German, English, Swedish, Italian
Subtitles: English, German

starring Fabian Stumm, Jonas Dassler, Godehard Giese, Marie-Lou Sellem

Sad Jokes

Joseph (Fabian Stumm) and Sonya (Haley Louise Jones) share a close friendship and have a young son, Pino, whom they are raising together. While filmmaker Joseph is working on a new film idea and tries to deal with the breakup with his ex-boyfriend Marc (Jonas Dassler), Sonya is suffering from a depression that increasingly tears her out of her life. When she is placed in a clinic, Joseph tries to juggle his daily family life and his artistic ambitions.

In his second feature writer/director Fabian Stumm mixes different moods to create a cinematic friction with reality. SAD JOKES is absurd and banal, hopeful and touching or – like real life – all at once.

Sad Jokes



“Sad Jokes” is your second film, released just under a year after your debut. How did it come about so quickly?

“Bones and Names” has opened up a new world to me. It was fascinating to see the film make its way into the public eye, giving me the opportunity to engage in dialogue with the audience. During the festival tour, I lived in a kind of bubble for several months and quickly felt the need to write to stay connected with myself. Alongside the many beautiful moments, I wanted to leave space for my uncertainties and fears. The result was “Sad Jokes”. I wrote the screenplay in hotels, trains, and airports. I wanted to incorporate real life as much as possible and be sincere, but always give myself permission to lie and transform reality into fiction. It’s a film about persevering. About ways to care for the people you love, even when you’re apart. And about the ability to forgive. About how life can be cruel, funny, hopeful, and sometimes everything at the same time.

“Bones and Names” is a drama with comedic elements, “Sad Jokes” could now be described as a comedy with dramatic moments.

That’s correct. I wanted to build on the lightness of “Bones and Names”, turn up the dials and let deeply sad scenes and slapstick moments collide. I’m interested in the fractures that result from this. It was great fun to explore cinematic humor. The comedies of Loriot, Charlie Chaplin, Ernst Lubitsch, Nanni Moretti, or François Truffaut have influenced me since I was young. Sincerity and silliness often lie close together in them, which I find very beautiful and worth telling.

“Sad Jokes” is about the filmmaker Joseph, whose life increasingly turns upside down. You are once again your own lead actor. Was that planned from the beginning?

Absolutely. Especially because of the autofictional meta-level of the film, I wanted to play the role myself. However, like with my last film, the story is not purely autobiographical but is composed of many mosaic pieces that I or people around me have experienced in a similar way. For example, shortly after the premiere of “Bones and Names”, I broke a finger, quite banally while playing with my dog. In the film, Joseph gets his finger stuck in a snack vending machine – so that’s a conscious exaggeration. I then worked the diffuse fear that actually arose in me before the operation into the long hospital sequence like a sketch and used it as a springboard.

“Bones and Names” was compared to Robert Altman’s ensemble films in some reviews. For “Sad Jokes”, you were able to gather a great cast around you again.

This comparison made me incredibly happy and naturally quite humble. Robert Altman is one of the most important directors for me. I love the freedom of his films, his way of directing ensembles, and his refusal to follow a classic narrative. He saw his cast as a troupe, to which players can join and develop together if they understand each other and speak a similar language in their work. The casting director Eva Roth wonderfully supported me here again.

Haley Louise Jones plays an important role in the story this time.

Yes. I was very moved by her brief cameo in “Bones and Names” and really wanted to direct her in a larger role. Haley has an incredible passion in her work. She plays Sonya, a mother struggling with severe depression, and because I have a connection to this topic on the side of my family, it was important to me to show a nuanced picture of it. Haley gave me and the film a great gift with her performance.

How did the Swedish actress Ulrica Flach come to the project?

Ulrica and I met over twenty years ago at drama school in New York and never saw each other again afterwards. While writing, the idea of making her character Swedish and casting her stuck with me. During our first Zoom, it was as if no time had passed since our last encounter. For me, the story of our reunion is proof of how art can unexpectedly bring us together and reconnect us.

Jonas Dassler has a very touching appearance as Joseph’s ex-boyfriend.

I am very grateful that Jonas took on this role. It’s not easy to sketch a character in just one scene. I try to treat even small roles as if they were the main characters in their own film, which they are when you think about it. Jonas is an actor who can convey a lot with few words. He has a gentleness and openness in his performance that I particularly appreciate.

Indeed, it feels like all the supporting actors must have had a lot of fun …

They did. Godehard Giese as a slightly overbearing producer, Marie-Lou Sellem and Anne Haug as a pair of actresses newly in love, Knut Berger as a nude model who falls in love with Joseph, Anneke Kim Sarnau as a hyper patient on painkillers, Hildegard Schroedter as Sonya’s mother seeking happiness through online dating, or Tina Pfurr as an overwhelmed first aider – everyone was there with great attention to detail and put a lot of effort into their roles. We had a really great time filming together.

“Bones and Names” was filmed in German and French, in “Sad Jokes” German, English, Italian, and Swedish are spoken. You seem to consciously not want to settle on one language.

That’s correct. Language is always a way for me to broaden my perspective. It’s exciting what paths of communication open up when you don’t speak the same language but have to communicate. My next projects are set in Belgium and Italy, among other places, and being a German filmmaker, I will naturally look at a foreign country from a different angle. What connections are there and what are the differences? It is important to me not to set geographical limits in my work. I find it enriching that cinema offers us all this possibility.


FABIAN STUMM (Director, Writer, Producer; Joseph) works as actor, author and director. He studied at the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute New York and has since appeared on stage at HAU – Hebbel am Ufer, Münchner Kammerspiele, Volksbühne Berlin, in The Kitchen New York and Tate Modern London. His film and TV works include “Lore by Cate Shortland, “Bela Kiss” by Lucien Förstner, “Precious Ivie” by Sarah Blaßkiewitz and the series “Druck” and “Oh Hell”.
In 2020 he gave his directorial debut with the short film “Bruxelles”. 2021 followed his second film “Daniel” that was awarded best medium-length film at the Achtung Berlin Festival. His feature film debut “Bones and Names” premiered at the 2023 Berlinale in the Perspektive Deutsches Kino section and won the Heiner Carow Prize. In 2024, Marie-Lou Sellem was nominated for the German Film Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the film. “Sad Jokes” is his second feature film.

Filmography as Director

  • 2020

    „Bruxelles“ (KF)

  • 2021

    „Daniel“ (MF)

  • 2023

    „Knochen und Namen“

  • 2024

    „Sad Jokes“

HALEY LOUISE JONES (Sonya) played her first leading role in the film “ Precious Ivie” by Sarah Blaßkiewitz, for which she was awarded Best Actress at the Achtung Berlin Film Festival. This was followed by roles in the Netflix productions “Paradise” by Boris Kunz and “Liebes Kind” by Isabel Kleefeld & Julian Pörksen. Next up, she will appear in the drama “Blindgänger” by Kerstin Polten and the series “KraNK” by Fabian Möhrke and Alex Schaad. For “Bones and Names” by Fabian Stumm, she was nominated for the German Acting Award 2023.

ULRICA FLACH (Elin) studied acting in Gothenburg and at the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute New York. After several stage engagements, she founded her own theatre company, Pelikanteatern, in 2003. Her film and TV work includes “I Want You to Run” by Jacob Schill, “Smink” by Kristian A. Söderström, and “Fallet – Hagamannen” by Reza Parsa. “Sad Jokes” marks her first role in a feature film.

JONAS DASSLER (Marc) studied at the Ernst Busch Academy of Dramatic Arts and has since appeared in many film projects, including “Lomo – The Language of Many Others” by Julia Langhof, for which he was awarded the First Steps Award, “Never Look Away” by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, and “The Silent Revolution” by Lars Kraume. For Fatih Akin’s “The Golden Glove,” he was nominated for the German Film Award in 2019 and was chosen as a Berlinale Shooting Star. He will soon be seen in the thriller “Berlin Nobody” by Jordan Scott.



Writer & Director

Fabian Stumm


Michael Bennett

Camera Assistance

Josefin Heinrich & Stefan Rutkowski


Kaspar Panizza


Andrea Schmidt

Sound Design & Mix

Béla Brandes

Music Supervisor

Ramin Bijan

Art Director

Nele Schallenberg


Anna Hellmann

Costume Assistance

Belle Santos


Adriana Metzlaff

Additional Make-Up

Melissa Döberl


Eva Roth




Bertrand Glosset

Assistant Director

Nicola Heim

Set Runner

Anya Williams, Valentina Maria Schneck & Maud Sellem


Lucie Tamborini


Nele Schallenberg & Wiebke Wesselmann


Fabian Stumm & Nicola Heim



Fabian Stumm


Haley Louise Jones


Justus Meyer


Ulrica Flach


Jonas Dassler


Godehard Giese

Alexandra Alexandra

Marie-Lou Sellem


Anne Haug


Knut Berger


Hildegard Schroedter


Nicola Heim


Tina Pfurr


Anneke Kim Sarnau

Dr. Hartmann

Susie Meyer

Schwester Julia

Romina Küper


Doreen Fietz


Marco Ippoliti


Rahel Savoldelli


Sebastian Schipper


Max Krumm

A Postofilm production
distributed by Salzgeber

With english subtitles